Weaknesses of Social Tagging of Content

It seems like any type of social media you use these days has some sort of tagging option to help make the content easier to find and categorize.  I am often at a loss of what tags to add to my blog posts and whether or not I should add a hashtag to a tweet on Twitter.  The main cause of my dilemma is that as far as I know there is no defined set of tags that covers every subject.  Therefore since different people may describe a topic using different tags it’s hard to think of what is the best tag to use.

For example, when I write a book review blog post I will usually tag it with the author’s name, the title of the book and the publisher.  Then I debate should I add a genre tag?  Is the book considered a dystopia or science-fiction?  Both? Should I add the main characters names?  Where do you stop because does it really make sense to flood your post with tags?  I recently read an article about SEO and they mentioned the Google AdWords Tool for looking up keywords and seeing how many searches used that keyword.  It seems like that would be useful in selecting keywords but I would have to take a closer look at it.

Either way there is no guarantee every author of a post will use keywords or use them in the same manner you may think of a topic so this could prove difficult when trying to find information about a certain topic.

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Libraries Reaching Out Online

I really feel like in these days and times where library budgets are being cut that libraries need to redefine themselves in a world of social media, online services and various electronic resources.

I almost feel like it’s a given that a library should have an interactive presence whether it be through Facebook, Twitter, blogs or some other avenue.  The key is to stay active and get the word out to its patrons that they are accessible in these formats.  There is no benefit to having a blog that no one visits or be on Twitter and no one know.

Andy Brukhardt makes some wonderful suggestions in his post, How To Grow Your Library’s Social Media Presence, about how to spread the word to library patrons.  One pointer I wish he had focused more on is you can’t just have a page up and hope people will come.  The library staff has to be actively engaged with those who visit their blog, Facebook page or who tweet about a library.  There’s nothing like rarely seeing new blog posts, tweets or status updates to bore patrons and have them stop visiting.  Once they stop visiting a library’s page it’s not long before they forget they are even accessible online.  I personally find that libraries who respond to comments I leave on their blog or who tweet or reply to my tweets are the ones that first come to mind when I think of great, helpful libraries.

In the end, the more a library holds a community’s attention as a value adding resource the more likely that community is to support the library.

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Why Libraries Should Care About RSS?

Having an RSS feed for the library’s site is extremely useful for those libraries that want to provide up to date information about events at the library, news that may be of interest to their patrons and other interesting posts.  As Reichardt (2005) points out “RSS removes the burden of having to do regular, static Web searching to keep current in your fields of interest” which is not only relevant to librarians wanting to keep up on their profession but also patrons who want to keep up with library news.  With the number of different blogs, websites, tumblr sites, etc. it is very difficult for many to actively go to each site to keep up to date on new posts.  By utilizing an RSS aggregator a patron can simply go to their reader and see that their library has updated their feed and read what is new.

As a library patron who likes to follow updates in the library world, book blogging, cooking, preschool activities and a few other topics I know it’s rare for myself to go directly to a site to see if they have posted anything new.  Instead I open up my Google Reader and browse through all of my feeds in one location.

By utilizing RSS a library increases its chances that their patrons will choose to follow the library’s updates and possibly utilize the library’s services to a greater extent.  It also enables the library to get this information to its patrons without flooding their email inboxes.  In my case my inbox is often overflowing and I will delete or keep non-urgent emails unread and come back to them later (hopefully!) and this means sometimes missing important updates that are contained within those email updates you can subscribe to from most sites.  By using an RSS feed I have more control over when I want to go check for updates from a certain site and am more likely to read the updates.

Another benefit that may be more subjective is that having an RSS feed can make a library seem more on top of the new technologies and “with it” to the younger or more techie patrons.  They may feel the library and the services it provides are more relevant and likely to be up to date and in formats that utilize the latest technologies.

References

Reichardt, R. (2005). Success story: RSS moves into the mainstream at the University of Alberta Libraries. Library Connect, 3(2)Retrieved from http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/librariansinfo.librarians/lc030208

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RSS Aggregators & Library Blogs

It was interesting reading through the five blogs we were required to subscribe to as well as finding some library blogs on my own to follow.  For the five required blogs I found Librarian By Day to be by far my favorite to read.  Bobbi Newman just has a talent for writing in a style that made me feel like she was actually speaking to me.  Her posts weren’t too long that they started to lose my interest like those on In the Library with the Lead Pipe.  She provided useful and interesting bits of information, her opinion on the topic and the best part was she then provided links to other posts, articles, etc about the topic that may offer differing viewpoints or additional information.  This way if the reader wants more details they know where to go but if they are content with an overview it doesn’t feel like they are getting bogged down in every minutiae.

David Lee King has some interesting information on his blog but it just was not as engaging to me and as a personal preference I do not like having so many videos posted.  Often times I am going through my Google Reader at times where I cannot listen to a video and find it frustrating especially when it sounds like an interesting topic.  The other two blogs did not make a huge impression on me and one specially said they would be closing it down at the end of 2012.

In regards to topics I enjoyed Librarian By Day because it had a nice mixture of personal posts that add a twist of fun such as poking fun about stereotypes of what librarians look like, offering personal experiences like attending ALA Midwinter independently rather than being sent by a library and also professional information about things like the executive board for ALA.

When it came to finding other library blogs to follow I was surprised how much harder that task was than I expected.  I already followed  three library blogs but only one that really impressed me, the second was just so-so and the third totally turned me off and the only reason I still follow them is because it’s a local library.  So I went on a hunt to find other library blogs to compare them to. I was amazed how many of the blogs no longer existed, led to dead links or were not updated in years.  It is a little sad to see how many library blogs have been born and died within the span of just a few years.  After finding a handful through the LIS Wiki Weblogs-Public Libraries site I turned to my fellow book lovers on Twitter to see if they had any favorite library blogs and added about 8 to my RSS reader.

My 3 favorites turned out to be:

  1. The Bryant Library Blog in New York. They have a nice mixture about posts regarding events at the library, awards they have won and bookish events going on around the city. My only complaint would be about the frequency of their posting. They sometimes went months without a single post.
  2. Burbank Public Library-YAThink. The Burbank Public Library actually had several different blogs but being as my area of interest is YA I followed those posts.  I loved their blog!  They talked about books they were currently reading, books their teens were reading and what their opinions were of them and just general things going on in the genre like trends of dystopians, teenage pregnancy, etc.  My only disappointment was only Burbank Public Library patrons are allowed to comment on the posts.  I found myself often wanting to say something but was unable to do so since I am not a patron with an account. The other minor thing is a pet peeve of mine in that I do not like when blogs only allow a partial feed in Google Reader.  The first few sentences are sometimes not enough to let me know if it’s worth reading the entire post and since I follow so many blogs that extra click to actually go to the blog can be irritating.
  3. The third library blog that I enjoyed is my own local library’s blog, Union City Public Library, that I have been following for quite awhile now.  They have a mixture of book reviews, postings about library events and my favorite feature is their Monday Children’s Book Reviews.

After going through all of these blogs I really think the key points a library blog needs to keep in mind is the “voice” that comes across in their posts: a more relatable tone is more appealing, the length of posts: too long and people may lose interest and too short may mean nothing useful is gained from the post and the frequency of posting: if the library does not post often enough patrons may stop visiting the blog.

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Twitter and Libraries

I personally love Twitter and use it all the time to keep up with book related news such as new releases, upcoming releases, what’s going on in the publishing arena, etc.  I think libraries can also make great use out of them as well.  With the growing number of people signing on to Twitter especially the younger generation who like to do pretty much everything online this is a great way for libraries to keep in touch with those people.

I know I personally have made more of an effort to go to a particular library since they answered a tweet I posted complaining about something.  They were able to address my problem and now respond to comments, questions and requests I make to them on Twitter.  It’s great for developing relationships with their patrons and finding out about problems they may not have previously known about.  That makes for happier patrons, possibly an increase in usage of services and hopefully one day increased funding for the library.

Not only is Twitter helpful in monitoring satisfaction or problems with library services but it is also a good way to advertise upcoming events.  I know I personally do not visit my library’s calendar daily and often forget about upcoming events.  Library’s can use Twitter to remind patrons about events or to even stir up additional interest in an event.

Twitter can also be an additional resource for getting feedback on possible programs, what books are hot with different audiences or just about any other topic you can think of.

As with any other medium libraries need to keep in mind the limitations of Twitter such as the 140 character limitation, people’s tendency to reply quickly without always giving their reply much in depth thought and that those on Twitter tend to be more technologically savvy and may not represent the wider user of the library.

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Working online and on teams

I have to admit I love working online and that was one of the main reasons I was really excited to see that the post-MLIS certificate program was completely online based. There are the practical reasons such as not wanting to have to drive down to San Jose, fight traffic, find parking, arrange child care, etc but I also just love interacting online.  I have a Twitter account, Facebook, two personal blogs, I follow other blogs in Google Reader and admittedly spend way too much time on Pinterest.

That said before signing up I really did sit down and consider many of the questions brought up on the assessments such as am I self-motivated enough to keep up with the class schedule and would I miss that face to face interaction with the other students and the instructor.  I felt confident enough to go ahead and request to join the program.  So far I have not been disappointed and have found the various tools such as the Blackboard, discussion forums and emails to work well for me.

Another area I had some trepidation about was group work.  Dr. Haycock was all too accurate when he said that working in teams is becoming more and more common in the work place.  I do not work in a library but at my current job we are constantly working on teams whether they be short term teams to solve a problem or long term teams which were work in on a daily basis.  This past year we had to work in Scrum teams which were made up of 5-8 team members to plan, implement and test a group of features for a piece of software.  We went through all the phases Dr. Haycock mentioned.  We did spend quite a bit of time in the storming phase as we had to get used to the personalities that made up the group, figure out the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, figure out how to work as a group towards a common goal rather than as individuals and how to work out conflict in a healthy manner.  It wasn’t easy and it took a long time to move past that phase but it was a great feeling once we got into a rhythm that worked well for our team.

My main personal fear about working on teams is not that I don’t trust others work but more so the fears Ms. Irwin mentions about thinking I will have nothing to offer or I will get it wrong.  If I am working as an individual if I make a mistake the only person I am most likely to harm is myself.  In a group I worry that a mistake I make will have consequences for everyone.  This is a self-confidence issue I have been actively working on and have found it much easier to overcome when the team has a good communication process in place, everyone has a positive attitude and are open about talking through any issues rather than griping in the halls or in the restroom as Dr. Haycock mentions.

My favorite part about working in a team is the differing view points you gain by having a mix of people on the team.

 

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Libraries on Social Media

I am a huge fan of social media and especially blogging and Twitter so I get really excited when I see someone or some organization that I love has created a blog or signed up for Twitter.  The disappointing part is when it’s obvious they have not really planned what they want to utilize the blog for or what they want to tweet about and eventually lets the account die.

Blogs

When I first created my own personal blog I did not have a focused goal of what I wanted to include in it so it rambled along from one thing to another and eventually I lost interest and stopped writing.  A few years later I decided I wanted a blog that focused mostly on book reviews and other things going on the book industry.  I found it much easier to focus and keep motivated to post to my blog once I had a set topic.

I think if a library wants to create a blog they need to first plan out what type of content do they want to be posting about, what is the minimum number of times they want to be posting and does someone on the staff have the time to dedicate to writing these posts.  Besides having a lack of focus, underestimating the amount of time it takes to maintain a blog is another key obstacle to keeping up with a blog.

I follow the blogs of two of my local libraries and I honestly feel one does a much better job than the other in keeping my interest.  One utilizes their blog almost solely for posting about an upcoming event.  I found the problem with this is the posts are so infrequent, often weeks go by without an update, that I forget to go take a look at it until an event I might have been interested in is long past.  The other thing that is lacking is the interaction with the reader.  I find the main difference between a blog and an ordinary website is asking for others opinions, posting comments and replying to comments makes a blog much more interactive than simply posting information that can also be found on the library’s website.  I do not know if this infrequency of posting is due to lack of time on the staff’s part, lack of a plan on what to post about or if this was always the goal of their blog but it failed to really engage me as a patron.

The other library does a better job in that they have a weekly post called “Monday Children’s Books Review” in which as expected they talk about various children’s books.  First off this caught my eye because I heavily utilize my library to find books to read to my children.  Second, this is a weekly post so I know that I can check back each week and there will be something new posted.  Third, since I do check in weekly I also happen to catch any other posts they have written during the week about other topics or upcoming events.  I do wish they did more with responding to comments as I have left comments and have seen other people leave comments but no one responds back to them.

Twitter

Many of the articles we read about libraries utilizing Twitter are several years old but I think it’s safe to say the number of people on Twitter is much higher now.  I think Twitter can take advantage of Twitter by using it to communicate with patrons and also to monitor patrons satisfaction with the library’s services as mentioned in this blog post from a senior librarian at the National University of Singapore.  My county library system is on Twitter and imagine my amazement when they replied to a complaint I made on Twitter.  They were able to resolve my problem and not only was I happy that I found an answer to my problem but I was even happier knowing that they were listening and actively trying to assist patrons.  Since then I’ve utilized Twitter to ask questions about book requests, open hours, holiday closures, etc.  All things that granted can be found on their website but it is so much more convenient to simply tweet and get an answer rather than having to remember to bookmark the library site on every computer I use or have to search to find the url to the library’s website and then navigate to find the information I want.

I think other types of tweets patrons would find useful is updates about upcoming events at the library, a highlight of new book arrivals, information about events going on around the city or especially during these times information about funding or cuts that may affect library services.  Just today I happen to see a tweet about the cuts to California’s funding for libraries.  I had not heard about this before and re-tweeted the article and saw other re-tweets.  I don’t know if this will translate into more support for libraries but it definitely helps get the news into the public eye.

As social media becomes more and more ingrained into every generation I think libraries need to embrace these technologies in order to keep up with their patrons.  It opens up new avenues of communication and possibly even new services to keep libraries relevant.

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